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Cambria convention center in West Fargo to open this week

Mary Jo Alexander, Aaron Johnson and Patrick Lewis in the lobby at the Cambria Suites and Convention Center. David Samson1 / 3
The new convention center in West Fargo is slated to open Thursday. David Samson2 / 3
A workspace area in a room at the Cambria Suites and Convention Center in West Fargo. David Samson3 / 3

When the Cambria Suites and Convention Center opens on Thursday, it will be the first convention center to open in West Fargo and the first hotel to open its doors in more than 20 years.

The six-ballroom, 103-suite high end hotel and convention space located at 825 Beaton Drive will become the city’s fourth hotel, and the only one off the Main Avenue corridor at this time. The last time a hotel was built in the city was a Days Inn in 1992, which has since become Howard Johnson, said Matt Marshall, West Fargo economic development and community services manager.

The convention center, situated to the west of the hotel space, will have six meeting rooms equipped with audio and visual equipment, which includes the main ballroom that can accommodate 450 people.

Marshall said events or meetings were often held at Speedway Steakhouse on Main Avenue, which will continue to host similar events, and Cambria will now offer a second option to West Fargoans.

Mary Jo Alexander, corporate director of sales and marketing for KAJ Hospitality, said 25 events are already scheduled for the convention center, where they expect to host at least one wedding every weekend.

“We’re expecting to have every weekend filled with weddings,” Alexander said. “There’s a need. Everyone we’re talking to, says there is a need for this in West Fargo.”

The Cambria will be owned by KAJ Hospitality, a hotel management company based in Sioux Falls, S.D. and owned by Aaron Johnson and his father, who also operate a Hampton Inn in Fargo. Cambria is a part of Choice Hotels International, which includes Fargo hotels such as the Sleep Inn and Suites.

“We came across this opportunity and had some early discussions with the city of West Fargo and were unbelievably impressed with their willingness to facilitate this hotel being built and their desire to have a new hotel in West Fargo,” Johnson said. “Without a doubt this location was chosen because of the city. They’re just craving new retail or commercial projects like this.”

Michael Lusick, director of brand operations for Choice, said this is the first Cambria to be built in the metro area. Lusick said the metro area is becoming a well-known destination for travelers and Cambria wanted to home in on that modern feel.

The West Fargo Cambria location has been designed to offer travelers a new experience with larger rooms that include two televisions, pullout sofas and other amenities, including high-end bathrooms with special touches to make each room comfortable and convenient. It also includes a design décor that mixes in the North Dakota culture.

In each suite is a mural inspired by the famed Fargo Theatre and throughout the hotel and convention center photos taken by North Dakota Instagrammers line the walls.

But Cambria isn’t just welcoming travelers with images of the city – West Fargoans are welcome to visit Cambria as a regular destination bar, restaurant and event host.

Alexander said Cambria plans to host events on a regular basis and donate the proceeds to community organizations. The first of which will be on May 2, when Dueling Pianos performs.

The bar and restaurant space, a bistro manned by chef Michael DeMaria specializing in fresh fare, will be the largest in the Cambria chain, said Patrick Lewis, Choice Hotels International brand performance consultant, with luxe indoor seating as well as seating on an outdoor patio that boasts a firepit.

Lewis said many West Fargoans have already stopped in to see the project progressing since construction started last year. The residents have said they are excited to have a new destination within walking district of their homes.

While Cambria Suites and Conference Center opens on Thursday, the next -door Blarney Stone pub is expected to open this month as well. A separate, hotel, Element, continues construction on the east side of Ninth Street and will likely open this year.

Johnson said he is excited to build in this area. If the Cambria Suites and Convention Center proves successful, KAJ may invest in a second hotel on the east side of the convention center within the next few years.